Australia smokers given plain packs

An example of what cigarette packets in Australia may look like Grim health warnings like this are replacing the branding on cigarette packets in Australia

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Australia has become the first country in the world to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes.

From now, all tobacco company logos and colours will be banned from packets.

They have been replaced by a dreary, uniform, green/brown, colour accompanied by a raft of anti-smoking messages and photographs.

The only concession to the tobacco companies is their name and the name of the brand variant in small print at the bottom of the box.

"This is the last gasp of a dying industry," declared Australia's Health Minister Tanya Plibersek.

Anne Jones of the anti-smoking group Ash (Action on Smoking and Health) agrees.

"Plain packaging has taken the personality away from the pack", she says.

"Once you take away all the colour coding and imagery and everything is standardised with massive health warnings, you really do de-glamorise the product."

Cigarette packets were practically the last platform for tobacco companies to advertise themselves.

Commercials on Australian television and radio were banned in 1976. Newspapers followed in 1989.

Targets set

Tobacco sponsorship of sport and cultural events was prohibited in 1992.

That left the packets themselves, which became a target for the current Labor government.

The government's efforts were led by then-Health Minister Nicola Roxon whose own father, Jack, died from a smoking-related illness when she was 10.

Start Quote

Plain packaging is here to stay in Australia. We now plan to go after the ingredients contained in cigarettes”

End Quote Anne Jones of Ash

The government argued that with 15,000 smokers dying each year at a cost to society of AU$30bn (£19bn) it had a duty to act.

It set the target of reducing smoking levels from 16% of the population in 2007, to less than 10% by 2018.

In May 2011, Cancer Council Australia released a review of the evidence surrounding the introduction of plain packaging. The review suggested that packaging plays an important part in encouraging young people to try cigarettes.

That was followed by a telling video, released by anti-smoking campaigners, showing children discussing existing cigarette packets.

One boy says the red on one packet reminds him of his favourite car, a girl admires the pink on another packet, while another boy talks about the "heavenly" colours on his box.

The combined messages about the efficacy of logos and colours in selling cigarettes, helped prompt the government to begin its legislative push to introduce plain packaging.

Not surprisingly, the tobacco industry resisted.

A consortium of major companies, including Phillip Morris, Imperial Tobacco and British American Tobacco (BAT) came together to plan a counter punch.

That included an extensive media campaign to try to persuade the public and government of the shortcomings of plain packaging.

Cigarettes on display Tobacco companies say removing the branding from cigarettes will not stop people smoking

BAT's spokesman, Scott McIntyre, says: "Plain packaging has always been misleading and won't stop smoking because branded cigarettes will be smuggled in and because tobacco companies will have to respond to that by cutting prices to stay competitive."

Despite those arguments, last August Australia's High Court ruled in favour of the government.

It threw out technical arguments by the tobacco companies that the government was trying to "acquire" their intellectual property rights by removing logos.

"Plain packaging is a game changer," says Anne Jones, a veteran of anti-smoking campaigns.

"It means that you can take on big tobacco and win."

It's known that Britain, France, Norway, India and New Zealand have been among those following the Australian court case closely, to see if there are any lessons for similar plain packaging measures in their countries.

Rare legal set back

But Scott McIntyre of BAT says it is not that straightforward, arguing that the Australian government only won because of the peculiarities of Australian constitutional law.

But there is no doubt that tobacco companies have suffered a rare legal set back, although there could still be further action by them at the World Trade Organization.

"We don't fear that," says Anne Jones of Ash.

"Plain packaging is here to stay in Australia. We now plan to go after the ingredients contained in cigarettes."

Anti-smoking lobbyists like Anne Jones know that packaging changes alone wont significantly curb smoking, especially among established smokers.

Price, availability, information campaigns and health messages play an equally important role.

But cigarette packets will no longer be mini, mobile advertising boards and, for those working to reduce smoking levels, plain packaging is an important stage in the shift to a smoking-free society.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    ... and here is another "statistic". In the US 2 different studies show: a) the cost of drinking to be US$235 billion and b) the cost of smoking to be US$100 billion. Which one should we be demonising? Go figure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    smoking is not ileagle so why treat it as such ( i am a non smoker )
    But charging so much tax is how can the tax be worth more than the product that must be illegal or am i wrong

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Do you really think that this namby-pamby, right-on device will stop people from smoking? NO. Nicotine is addictive and what's in the packet is much more important than what's on the packet to the addicted... you idiots.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    I can see a great business opportunity in Australia, smart and exciting cigarette cases. Just transfer your smokes to the case of your choice. Added advantage, they don't get crushed in your pocket. If only I had the money to invest...........

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Gets headlines! If government really believe cigarettes are harmful - then ban them and organise an alternative distribution for the product. However what are the relative costs, social or otherwise, of drinking -v- smoking. I do believe that smoking is demonised far too much suspect that the social and economic costs of drink are actually far higher but perhaps doesn't generate the same revenue!

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Like many activities with risks, regulation is already in place to control these risks.

    However, this has become a case of the state overstepping the mark: even duplicitous given the income it derives from taxation.

    More worryingly next will various states start intervening in dangerous activities?

    The thin end of the wedge perhaps?

    (I am a non-smoker and dislike cigarettes).

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Some Lingering Fog
    1 Hour ago

    Only the weak and uneducated continue to smoke.


    Yes i`m sure Churchill is regarded as weak and uneducated. What a ridiculous and uneducated comment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    65. corncobuk

    It will never happen, they make far too much in revenue on the backs of smokers to allow that. If governments were serious about the health of the nation they would ban smoking, drinking and fast food. But of course they`re not serious are they.


    Much as I dislike smoking, I would not wish to live in a country like that. Where would they stop? Very little is really good for you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    "Govt should be bold enough to ban the cigarette" drug prohibition is hardly effective, and tobacco tax is £10 billion a year

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Anyone remember Death Cigarettes?
    Hugely popular in pubs and clubs in the 1990s

    When you are young you are going to live forever
    ...and if young people didn't think that way no-one would ever join the army

    As mentioned:
    If you want to live a long life adopt a Japanese lifestyle

    Japanese smokers live longer than anyone

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    If it prevents just a few people from starting to smoke it will be worthwhile.

    I question the images. There can't be anyone who doesn't know that smoking can cause serious illness. The issue is youngsters don't look that far ahead in their lives.

    A better message to prevent smoking is to stress how addictive it is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    "46.I've never smoked but I would defend anyone's right to take part in a completely legal activity without being made to feel like a pariah."

    I'd agree except that laws are made by others. I disagree with our drugs laws entirely - legalise them. It's a human being's right to decide what he/she puts in their body; no one else's. Educate your way out of addiction, not silly laws/advertising bans.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    57. The Lone Gunman
    Re #16 Tim

    Can you tell me what's cool about having horrible breath, smelly clothes, brown stained fingers, less money and dying painfully much younger than non smokers?


    I did not say any of those things were cool, what I said was:

    'Putting grotesque images on cigarette packs will only serve to make them cool in the eyes of most teenagers'.

    That is true!

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    I have given up years ago BUT surly the biggest problem is Alcohol not fags all crime is alcohol fueled i never smoked 10 fags then felt like killing someone or mugging Ileave this thought with you all

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Re #67 rerec

    'I always found it a good way of supressing my appetite'

    Good idea. Eat less food - save money and spend £40 a week saving that money. Smoke to lose weight but die in the process.

    If these's logic in this it defies me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Last Sept when in England the tobacco kiosk staff had great difficulty finding a pack of popular small cigars.
    The reluctant opening of the enforced shutters an inch at a time didn't help me point them out. Even when shown what the pack looked like didn't help them.
    Obviously I didn't give up and got them, but considered the extra time spent to be an excellent deterrent for the Govt to enforce!

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Just put a picture of burning money on the front of the box of cigarettes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    "a move such as this would undoubtedly save my life"

    So if you quit smoking you would become immortal?

    If it's a LONGER life you're after, then look at adopting a Japanese lifestyle as they live the longest, mind you - they are also the heaviest smokers in the developed world...

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    from simple observation, I suspect smoking in the UK is increasing as the hard times bite. I always found it a good way of supressing my appetite. I gave up smoking over 40 years ago by the way. Why? Simple I wanted something else more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    It's obvious to any moderately intelligent smoker that these pictures that they put onto packets of cigarettes are pictures of down-and-outs and homeless people

    Their teeth are destroyed by a bad diet and constantly consuming hard booze

    ...most of these poor people are in this state because of alcohol...

    ...cigarettes were the least of their problems in this life


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